Japanese mindfuck trio Xinlisupreme's debut album, Tomorrow Never Comes, was glowing, twisted proof that leftfield electronic music can be confusing, heartstopping and utterly lovely. It was an unearthly, tearstained, beautiful record. Let's not fuck about - mini-album Murder License is not in any way a beautiful record. The cover art will tell you all you need to know - a bloodstained, jagged US flag, and inside, hovering missiles and the face of Dubya superimposed over vague, undefined cadavers, alongside an unsettling statement of intent that reads like a death threat - "I think all of you, President/Your end's come soon" - before the words "I don't believe All you need is love/Tomorrow never comes" recall the name of their debut single in a disturbing new context. Even the title of the record says it all.
It's not deceptive packaging - Murder License holds none of the naïve, aching gorgeousness of Tomorrow Never Comes. Where that record sounded like My Bloody Valentine entwined in an enchanting alien mating ritual with Suicide and Merzbow, Murder License bubbles and crackles with unspoken, all too human rage. Just try working out any of the lyrics. Go on. Ha. You should see the look on your face. Xinlisupreme don't need to use anything like the banality of intelligible words to put their point across. It's devastatingly clear already.
To the innocent listener/victim, Murder License feels like the aftermath of a nuclear weapon. Poisonous, crumbling basslines swerve in all directions, crashing into rhythms that tear splinters out of your skull before you can even pin them down in your mind. Opening track "Murder License" sounds like a bloodthirsty battlecry, a mass of coursing, piercing strings and human screams muffled under layers of static white noise, a sonic fuckin-come-onnnnnn-then, while "Front of You" begins like a nihilistic take on Billy Mahonie, led by a monolithic bass parade before the whole thing is taken over by air raid sirens. The strongest track on the record is perhaps the eerie "I.T.D.O.O.M", which sounds like the repeated call of a lone figure stranded in the dark expanses of the Pacific, echoing the same piercing, melodic line into unrelenting, hollow, unresponsive darkness. Even as the most serene track on the entire record, it's chilling in its unwavering, disturbing intensity, and "Murder License" as a whole displays every face of the car crash syndrome - you don't want to look but can't tear your eyes from the debris.
"Murder License" is an utterly current record, and stands as a direct and defiant response to the events of the past year. Its complete lack of any spoken intent hold it far from the brink of cliché or weary repetition, and the uncompromising, brutal clash of merciless noise and shattered melody hammer home the point far harder than any reused words could. It's impossible to separate it from the violent political statement that spills from it in every direction - not to mention unnecessary. Murder License is a triumphant contradiction of the idea that music and politics should not mix - whether you agree with Xinlisupreme's point of view, it is without doubt the strongest and most arresting politically motivated record of recent years. An astonishing record by an astonishing band.
10Gen Williams's Score